Uncovered secrets

During his self-isolation husband Stuart is unearthing secrets in the White House garden. What began as a bit of trimming back overgrown hedging has turned into archeology. First he found a flagged path, then some wall, then a step in the wall, and then, a brick pathway lying underneath lawn.

I have no idea what else he will find but it is certainly intriguing. Past occupants of the White House put in these features, others covered them up, or time covered them over.

This enterprise has called to mind my favourite read as a child: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, published in 1911. No, I’m not that old but it had become a classic by the time I got to read it in the 60’s. It has always stuck with me for two reasons I think. The adventure that unfolds through the breathing new life into a long-neglected garden, especially a hidden garden, gripped me. It probably sowed my love of gardening. The second reason is simple. It was the first story to make me cry. I can still remember the joy of reading the moment when Colin’s father sees the son he has always thought a cripple and likely to die, run out through the door of the secret garden into his arms and proudly announce that he has beaten local lad Dickon (my first heart-throb) in a race.

During this time of enforced staying at home you may also be getting stuck into sorting out something neglected, something put off – the garden, the kitchen cupboards, the attic…? Or maybe you are enjoying time for a good read! What is the book that has stuck with you? Why not send me your favourite reads?!

Homage to my Mum, Betty

It is a lovely day here at the White House in Whitefield. It is a special day to remember our Mothers and maybe especially if they are no longer with us. There has been much traffic in and out of the church yard opposite as people have been visiting graves and leaving flowers.
My Mum Betty paid us a visit for Mothering Sunday last year. Passed like a precious parcel she was from her home in Bristol and finally to us here at the White House. She was wheeled across to the church for the service and received her flowers. A very important tradition.
During her week-long stay Mum wanted to take us to the cinema to see a film – Fisherman’s Friends. She had seen the film in Bristol, loved it and wanted to share. It is a real feel-good film. At 96 years of age she was still up for an adventure!
So we planned an expedition in her wheelchair: tram from Whitefield into Manchester, coffee and cake at the Cathedral Cafe, wander round the cathedral, wander round the shops, lunch at Selfridges, then the cinema and tram back home.
The picture of Mum in Selfridges is a typical pose: raising a glass! Though it was not Selfridges or the cinema but being pushed around the aisles of Boots that she kept talking about afterwards. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been in Boots! It gave her such a thrill.
We passed the precious parcel back down the line and the next Sunday: Passion Sunday, she was outside her gate as usual to be picked up for church. Then it was a roast dinner prepared by my brother, and a settle down to watch the Boat Race. Mum was a fan of most sports. She loved life with a competitive edge. This is where my brother found her, resting in peace.

Beatrice Mary Rawling 14.12.1922 – 07.04.2019

Midday Prayer Apart But Together Update – Nothing can trouble…God alone loves us

I found myself singing a Taizé song at Midday yesterday before I began the prayer. It reminded me that Brother Roger, the founder of Taizé, said that to sing is to pray twice. The song was:

Nada te turbe, nada te espante;
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Nada te turbe, nada te espante:
Sólo Dios basta.
Nada te turbe, nada te espante;
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Nada te turbe, nada te espante:
Sólo Dios basta.

In English:
Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten, those who seek God shall never go wanting, nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten, God alone, loves us

What struck me is that I naturally sing it in another language from my own as I know it so well. But this time, I felt closer than ever to my brothers and sisters in Spain and around the world.

Here it is:

A Message from Richard Rohr about COVID-19

Love Alone Overcomes Fear 
Thursday, March 19, 2020

It is shocking to think how much the world has changed in such a brief time. Each of us has had our lives and communities disrupted. Of course, I am here in this with you. I feel that I’m in no position to tell you how to feel or how to think, but there are a few things that come to mind I will share. 

A few days ago I was encouraged by the Franciscans and by the leadership team here at the CAC to self-quarantine, so I’ve been in my little hermitage now for three or four days. I’ve had years of practice, literally, how to do what we are calling “social distancing.” I have a nice, large yard behind me where there are four huge, beautiful cottonwood trees, and so I walk my dog Opie every few hours.

Right now I’m trying to take in psychologically, spiritually, and personally, what is God trying to say? When I use that phrase, I’m not saying that God causes suffering to teach us good things. But God does use everything, and if God wanted us to experience global solidarity, I can’t think of a better way. We all have access to this suffering, and it bypasses race, gender, religion, and nation. 

We are in the midst of a highly teachable moment. There’s no doubt that this period will be referred to for the rest of our lifetimes. We have a chance to go deep, and to go broad. Globally, we’re in this together. Depth is being forced on us by great suffering, which as I like to say, always leads to great love. 

But for God to reach us, we have to allow suffering to wound us. Now is no time for an academic solidarity with the world. Real solidarity needs to be felt and suffered. That’s the real meaning of the word “suffer” – to allow someone else’s pain to influence us in a real way. We need to move beyond our own personal feelings and take in the whole. This, I must say, is one of the gifts of television: we can turn it on and see how people in countries other than our own are hurting. What is going to happen to those living in isolated places or for those who don’t have health care? Imagine the fragility of the most marginalized, of people in prisons, the homeless, or even the people performing necessary services, such as ambulance drivers, nurses, and doctors, risking their lives to keep society together? Our feelings of urgency and devastation are not exaggeration: they are responding to the real human situation. We’re not pushing the panic button; we are the panic button. And we have to allow these feelings, and invite God’s presence to hold and sustain us in a time of collective prayer and lament. 

I hope this experience will force our attention outwards to the suffering of the most vulnerable. Love always means going beyond yourself to otherness. It takes two. There has to be the lover and the beloved. We must be stretched to an encounter with otherness, and only then do we know it’s love. This is what we call the subject-subject relationship. Love alone overcomes fear and is the true foundation that lasts (1 Corinthians 13:13). 

You can find this and other meditations from Richard Rohr at the Center of Action and Contemplation Meditations@cac.org